Women Ambassadors Forum is a worldwide nonprofit organization led by students and young professionals that aims to provide a platform for women to improve their leadership skills, become stronger and more independent members of society, and seek their own economic empowerment.
The forum will take place June 7-11 on the Trinity campus and feature prominent speakers from a wide range of backgrounds and professions. An array of lectures and workshops will highlight the flow of ideas, mentorship, and entrepreneurial skills necessary for women to reach their full potential.
Participants also will have the opportunity to interact with guest speakers, expand their network, socialize with student leaders from different backgrounds, and explore their host city, San Antonio.
The inaugural forum took place in June 2015, with a binational focus on ambassadors from the U.S. and Mexico. This year's forum has a far more international reach and pool of ambassadors participating in the programming. The 35 ambassadors are female students ages 18-28 who are enrolled in university or have graduated in the last three years. They were chosen through an online application with a $300 fee to attend the conference.
Applications were received from more than 40 countries around the world, and the 2016 ambassadors hail from Bolivia, Ghana, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, and Yemen.
Ingrid Harb, founder and chief operating officer of Women Ambassadors Forum, is a recent business administration graduate from Trinity and an ardent advocate for female empowerment. In fall 2015, she called on Josh Daneshforooz, the chairman and CEO of consulting firm Onima Group, to guide her in the process of creating the first forum.
At the time, Harb was president of SheLeaders, a women empowerment club on Trinity’s campus. Collective vision and effort paired with Daneshforooz's help lit the fire that turned Harb's idea into a reality. Trinity later jumped on board and provided housing for all of the ambassadors during the inaugural conference.
This year SA2020, Michin Fresh Mexican Kitchen, The Asociación de Empresarios Mexicanos (AEM), H-E-B, Trinity's Mexico, the Americas, and Spain program (M.A.S), Molina Healthcare, Volkswagen, and Saks Fifth Avenue are but a few of the many sponsors supporting the event.
Individuals from Texas A&M University, University of Texas at Austin, New York University, Trinity, and other institutions make up WAF's diverse board of directors, and the WAF staff is made up of current Trinity students as well as alumni.
“The most powerful outcome of this is that we are creating a network, we are connecting and sharing ideas,” Harb said. “I think women need to collaborate and support each other, that’s the only way we will have equal rights between genders – if women learn to empower other women.”
Daneshforooz will train several WAF staff members to help him teach a leadership workshop to all of the ambassadors. This year's theme will be "Ideas for Change," as last year's participants expressed the importance of making a significant impact back in their hometowns after the conclusion of the forum. Daneshforooz and the WAF staff will train the ambassadors and help turn ideas into concrete and active initiatives.
“It’s all about generating ideas," Harb added. "The ambassadors will be leaving the forum with the tools they need to create change back in their own countries.”
Speakers include many prominent national, international, and even local leaders from the community such as Mexican scientist and astronomer Julieta Fierro Gossman, and Elizabeth Johnson, local chef and owner of Pharm Table.
Mayor Ivy Taylor is one of the featured speakers, as well as Middle Eastern author Rania Habiby Anderson, whose book Undeterred: The Six Success Habits of Women in Emerging Economies, was written for educated, ambitious women in emerging economies.
In addition, Trinity alumni and CEO of Tequila Avión Jenna Fagnan will give a lecture. In 2012, the brand was awarded “World’s Best Tasting Tequila” and “Best Unaged White Spirit” at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Fagnan has appeared in magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Forbes.
"Our true success will be measured when each of our ambassadors lead their communities through cooperation, innovation, and connection," said Mirka Serrato, WAF chief branding officer. "Each of their ideas will have soaked in the process of learning from one another, and they will return to their countries with the ability to unify other women."
In the future, WAF's goal is to have chapters at universities across the nation and to continue expanding internationally, in order for women to come together and change the world.
For more information on Women Ambassadors Forum, visit their website here.
Disclosure: Editorial Assistant Rocio Guenther was a part of the WAF staff last year and was a member of Trinity's women empowerment club, SheLeaders.
*Top image: WAF has ambassadors from more than 10 countries who will be attending the forum this year. Graphic courtesy of Women Ambassadors Forum.